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By Susan Varbedian Lucken, R.N., B.S.N.
February is American Heart month, so it is only appropriate that we discuss the topic of heart valve disease. In heart valve disease, one or more of the valves in your heart doesn’t work properly. Your heart has four valves that keep blood flowing in the correct direction. The four valves are called the mitral valve, tricuspid valve, pulmonary valve and aortic valve. In some cases, one or more of the valves don’t open or close properly. This can cause a disruption in the blood flow through your heart to your body. Heart valve disease may be present at birth ( congenital ). It can also occur in adults due to many causes and conditions, such as infections and other heart conditions.
Some people with heart valve disease might not experience symptoms for many years. Signs and symptoms may include:
Heart valve problems may include:
RISK FACTORS FOR HEART VALVE DISEASE
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and will listen for a heart murmur as this can be a sign of a heart valve condition. He/She may order several tests to diagnose your condition. These may include:
Heart valve disease treatment depends on how severe your condition is, if you’re symptomatic and if your condition is getting worse. You will be treated by a cardiologist and possibly a multidisciplinary team of doctors and medical staff trained in evaluating and treating heart valve disease.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES YOUR DOCTOR MAY SUGGEST:
Now that you know the signs and symptoms of heart valve disease, talk to your doctor about any symptoms that you are concerned with and make sure that you schedule routine checkups with your doctor. This will make it more likely that your doctor will discover any potentially serious conditions in the early stages.